Complete guide to the InstaVolt charging network

Need to charge up your electric car on the InstaVolt charging network? Here’s how it works

InstaVolt

With more and more electric cars on the road, EV drivers want a dependable and easy-to-use public charging network – and InstaVolt is among the very best. It's growing fast and is one of the easiest networks to use, with no need to set up an account; you just tap your contactless card on the screen and plug the cable into your car.

It's not cheap, however, with InstaVolt recently announcing its fifth price rise in less than 12 months; from 15 November 2022, charging via InstaVolt rapid charger costs 75 pence per kilowatt-hour – up from 66p/kWh previously.

But you pay for the convenience – something that was backed up in the 2022 edition of the Driver Power car ownership survey, where InstaVolt placed third in the list of top 12 public charging providers, behind Tesla's Supercharger network and Shell Recharge. The only area InstaVolt didn’t fare so well was cost of charging, finishing tenth in this category.

How to use the InstaVolt charging network and app

Electric-car drivers can check the availability of stations using the InstaVolt website or (as of June 2021) the InstaVolt smartphone app. An RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) card isn't necessary to use InstaVolt, although you can request one through the company's app. Once you've parked up next to the charger, you simply swipe your bank or credit card on the reader, follow the instructions on screen, and plug the provided cable into your car.

InstaVolt didn't initially have its own app, relying instead on the mobile version of its website, but an InstaVolt app was launched in June 2021. The app is optional; you don't have to download it to use InstaVolt chargers. It offers additional functionality, including a live map of InstaVolt’s network, a loyalty scheme that allows drivers to earn credit (called Volts) every time they charge and the ability to track charging history. Users can also remotely start a charge session from the app using stored payment details.

Where can I find InstaVolt chargers?

Most of InstaVolt's chargers were in England at first, but there are now a number of them in key locations across Wales and Scotland, too. InstaVolt has recently announced expansion plans for Portugal, Spain and Iceland, and had also promised sites in Ireland before the end of 2022 – although this hasn’t yet been actioned.

As of October 2022, InstaVolt operates close to 900 rapid charging points, located in various towns and cities around the UK, with the network growing by almost 50% in the last 12 months. It has chargers situated on myriad arterial routes across the country, and the company aims to have 10,000 units active by 2032 – at which point the government's ban on the sale of new combustion-engined cars will have come into effect.

InstaVolt's network encompasses rapid chargers at 200 Costa Coffee Drive-Thru locations, offering charging speeds up to 120kW. The company is also installing fast chargers at some of the 1,300 McDonald's Drive-Thrus across the country and also announced an agreement with KFC to install chargers at up to 450 of the fried chicken chain's drive-through locations.

It is also looking to expand existing sites, and recently announced plans to double the number of chargers at one of its most popular locations in Banbury near Oxford, by the spring of 2023. The expansion will see “16 new 120kW rapid chargers installed alongside the existing array of 16 rapid chargers” according to InstaVolt, taking the total to 32 chargers. Included in this will be “four fully accessible bays and four wider access bays” the company claims.

Further expansion of the InstaVolt network is on the horizon, as in February 2022, the company was acquired by EQT Infrastructure, which has promised to "invest significantly in accelerating InstaVolt’s continued expansion of charge points across the UK and beyond".

How much does InstaVolt charging cost?

As of November 2022, InstaVolt charges 75p per kilowatt-hour – a rise from the previous price on 66p/kWh announced in August. This is up by 88% compared to this time last year, when drivers were paying 40p/kWh to use the network. InstaVolt blames the increase on the rising cost of energy, plus its ambitious growth strategy. The company is also calling for the government to reassess the 20% VAT rate on public charging; domestic tariffs attract a lower 5% rate.

The good news is that there are no connection fees or membership rates on InstaVolt charger. This means a full top-up of a Nissan Leaf with a 40kWh battery will cost around £30. As is the case with most other public networks, charging at home will almost certainly be cheaper: if your electricity tariff is around the UK average of around 28p per kilowatt-hour, the same full charge of a Leaf will cost just over £11 from a standard 7kW wallbox.

Payments are made using a contactless card: there’s no minimum payment, although the company says you’ll initially see a ‘pre-authorisation’ fee of either £15 or £30 appear on your bank statement. This will automatically be cancelled and replaced with the actual amount when you’ve finished charging. You can request a VAT receipt by sending the charger station name, time, date and charging cost to info@instavolt.co.uk.

How fast does InstaVolt charge?

This depends on the individual charging station: most are capable of 50kW or more; 250 chargers capable of 125kW were installed from August 2019 onwards. Regardless of charging speed, the company claims that 100% of the electricity provided is produced by renewable sources.

At 50kW chargers, a 40kWh Nissan Leaf will take a 0-80% top-up in around 45 minutes, with a full charge taking closer to an hour. Meanwhile, a vehicle like the 90kWh Jaguar I-Pace will see a 0-80% charge in less than 40 minutes on InstaVolt's newer 125kW chargers.

InstaVolt’s charging stations all come with CCS and CHAdeMO cables installed, so you don’t need to bring your own. That said, many cars without CCS fast-charging technology aren’t currently able to use the InstaVolt network, and some owners of older Tesla Model S and Model X cars may need a special connector to make use of the CHAdeMO plug. Anyone who encounters an issue while charging can contact InstaVolt directly on a helpline that’s available 24/7: the number is 0808 281 4444.

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